Forget Canada, Europe and Patagonia – you don’t need to travel to the other side of the world to find the most awe-inspiring landscapes. They’re actually much closer than you think.
Hop across the ditch to New Zealand’s South Island, hire a car and head for Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park to discover glaciers, bright turquoise lakes and some of the best hikes in the southern hemisphere.
Intrigued? Read more about it in the gallery below.
The drive towards Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park will take you past dazzling Lake Tekapo. The glacier lakes in the Mackenzie basin get their brilliant turquoise colour from the fine rock flour suspended in the water ground up by the glaciers.
One of the most famous roads in New Zealand, the road to Mt Cook, hugs the edge of Lake Pukaki, another glacial lake, to take you into the Tasman valley. On a clear day you can see Aoraki/Mt Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain, towering ominously at the end of the road.
Arguably the best and most popular short walk in all of New Zealand, the Hooker Valley Track, takes hikers across four suspension bridges to the glacier terminal lake. It’s an easy 13-kilometre walk and takes three to four hours return.
The hike follows the Hooker River, which snakes its way through the valley against the backdrop of snow-capped mountains.
The flat, well-formed path takes you through alpine tussock and through the valley. Rugged mountains rise steeply around you on all sides. Pro-tip: set off early at around 7am to have the track almost entirely to yourself.
There are photo opportunities at every turn including this tiny mountaineer’s hut nestled neatly in the valley.
Another spectacular hike to do in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park is the short walk to the Tasman Glacier Lake. You’ll see icebergs drifting in the lake over summer and in winter it freezes over.
The ‘Lord of the Rings’ soundtrack will be playing on loop in your head throughout your time here. The wide valleys are so reminiscent of Middle Earth.
Stay out and watch the sky alight with colour over the icy mountaintops at sunset.
You might even feel inclined to do a little jig out of pure happiness.